My new book, now available in Hardback AND Kindle.

African Coalitions and Global Economic Governance

Cambridge University Press, 2016

[Cambridge] [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble]

African Coalitions and Global Economic Governance


The proliferation of international institutions with overlapping scope and authority over issue areas creates strategic dilemmas for all states. While African states are often considered marginalised in world politics and global markets, Michael Byron Nelson shows how coalitions can form a crucial part of African strategies to influence international institutions and achieve results. Building a bottom-up analysis of global governance, through legal analysis, content analysis, and in-depth interviews, Nelson illuminates institutional and coalition dynamics through case studies of three key areas – food safety, intellectual property, and agricultural trade. He highlights the difficulties encountered by coalitions attempting to navigate institutional systems, emerging from institutional thickness (increasing the number of institutions involved) and integration (increasing the formal linkages between those institutions). Finally, Nelson shows how increasing the hierarchy of an institutional system, by creating a focal point on a single institution, can make coordination easier for coalitions

Noted: AidData has updates

Update: AidData has a rejoinder to Brautigam. Available here and worth the read:

An email I received yesterday has the following highlights:

Updated AidData Database: AidData

New China Aid Database:

However, Deborah Brautigam has some very, very important critiques of this database: “Rubbery Numbers on Chinese Aid”. For instance, she comments one of AidData’s papers based on their new data:

Table 2 in the paper provides a good example of the problems. It contains 20 Chinese “megadeals” totaling over US$38 billion. But only 6 of these 20 projects — less than a third — reflect actual deals (Ghana $3 bn CDB credit; Equatorial Guinea $2 bn credit; Angola Phase 1 $1.5 bn, CDB loan to Angola for agriculture $1.2 bn; Cameroon Memve’ele Dam $674 million; Nigeria light rail $673 million). That’s around $9 billion.

That said, I appreciate what AidData is trying to do here. Hopefully, they clean some of this up. My own sense is that each iteration of their general database gets better.

Here is their email:

Dear Colleague:

My name is Brad Parks. I am the Co-Executive Director of AidData, a research and innovation lab that tracks more than $5.5 trillion dollars from 90 donor agencies, creates decision support tools for development finance institutions, undertakes cutting-edge research on aid distribution and impact, and oversees efforts to geocode and crowdsource aid information.

Given some of your previous work, I thought you might be interested in a new dataset that AidData will soon release. At 4PM Eastern Standard Time on April 29th, at an event hosted by the Center for Global Development (CGD), AidData will release a dataset that tracks the known universe of Chinese official development finance flows to Africa from 2000 to 2011. The dataset relies on an innovative media-based data collection (MBDC) methodology, which has helped uncover nearly 1,700 Chinese-backed projects amounting to over $75 billion in official commitments. Our hope is that that publication of the data will provide a stronger empirical foundation for analyzing the nature, distribution, and impact of China’s overseas development finance activities in Africa. Along with the methodology and the dataset, several AidData and CGD staff and faculty affiliates are releasing a CGD Working Paper entitled China’s Development Finance to Africa: A Media-Based Approach to Data Collection.

Additionally, in the next 24 hours, we will launch a live, interactive database platform at that is accessible to journalists, researchers, policymakers, development practitioners, and the general public. The online interface not only makes it possible to filter, manipulate, and visualize the data, but also provides tools that enable users to vet and help improve the data. To enhance the accuracy of project-level data, the platform allows users to provide additional information about specific projects, such as media reports, documents, videos, and photographs, as well as suggest new projects not previously identified.

Please feel free to spread the word to colleagues who might be interested in this work. Also, if you would like to do something interesting with the data and blog your findings on The First Tranche (, let me know. We’d like to get as many people as possible to use — and potentially help us improve — the data.

Finally, if you are in the DC area on Monday afternoon and you are interested in attending the event at CGD, please register here.  It starts at 4PM. I hope to see you there.


Brad Parks
Executive Director, AidData
The College of William and Mary;

Links and Feeds

I just updated my site to include an updated list of the news sites and blog feeds I follow. Much of it — except the major papers like Financial Times, The Economist, and The New York Times — can be accessed via the diagram below (just click on it to go to an interactive page). All of it is available on my new “Links and Feeds” page.

Research Resources: KOF Index of Globalization

KOF Index of Globalization.

This might be useful. They describe their data:

The KOF Index of Globalization measures the three main dimensions of globalization:

  • economic
  • social
  • and political.

In addition to three indices measuring these dimensions, we calculate an overall index of globalization and sub-indices referring to

  • actual economic flows
  • economic restrictions
  • data on information flows
  • data on personal contact
  • and data on cultural proximity.

Data are available on a yearly basis for 208 countries over the period 1970 – 2009.

KOF Index of Globalization

China and Africa: Recent Links

Deborah Brautigam has posted a couple of nice quick reviews of two great sources relevant to understanding the role of China in Africa:

Kennedy Opalo notes that NPR had an interesting graphic on “China’s Global Reach”.

Over at Global Voices, John Kennedy notes that in China, “Sudanese President Bashir’s Visit Raises Eyebrows”.

Over at the, Damien Ma has an interesting piece on Chinese workers in Africa who marry Africans: “Chinese Workers in Africa Who Marry Locals Face Puzzled Reception at Home.”

At African Arguments they have an interesting excerpt of a discussion on the Horn of Africa at the UK House of Lords. It is noted: “There is no room for complacency there at all because it is still a very ugly situation, as the noble Lord indicates, but a number of measures are being taken on land in building the prisons to deal with convicted pirates and on the high seas through unprecedented co-ordination between all the navies of countries such as the United States, Russia, all the NATO countries, Japan and China-a degree of co-ordination never before seen among navies.” Is it possible that Somali piracy could bring the world together? Doubt it, but it is an interesting thought!

Ghana: Oil


Ghana has received a lot of attention over the past few years for the offshore oil finds. As the BBC reported earlier this year, Ghana’s economic growth rate is expected to double due to this find. Some of the most recent news on this:

  • The debate as to whether Ghana will “escape” the oil curse rages on.
    • Ghana’s Business Guide reports that “prominent indigenes” of the Niger Delta are warning Ghanaians that the troubles in Nigeria could be reproduced in Ghana. Specifically, they cite the concern that oil companies will use Ghanaians against each other.
    • Meanwhile, Ghana Business News cites Standard Chartered Analyst Raziah Khan, who claims that Ghana is doing too many things right to experience an oil curse. This includes hedging their entire share of production from the Jubilee oil field, passing a law that saves oil income for future generations (a “Heritage Fund”). However, as they note, there is still concern that more needs to be done to protect Ghana from possible environmental damage.
  • At the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting,Christiane Badgley has a series of reports on oil’s actual and potential impacts. One of the more significant themes in her work is the problem that oil production is posing for fishermen.

It is obviously way too early to tell if Ghana will escape the oil curse. One major question is whether Ghana’s democracy has had enough time to consolidate itself and avoid some of the high levels of corruption that other African nations have experienced in connection with oil. Indeed, oil need not lead to bad politics (the US, Norway and many other nations have avoided such problems for the most part). As Thad Dunning notes in his excellent book, Crude Democracy, oil finds can also promote democracy. If other sectors of the economy are still important to elites, and if the country is overall poor and unequal, then an oil boom may actually make democracy more palatable to elites as they now have another source of revenue for redistribution. (OK, this is an oversimplification of his argument…. definitely pick up his book if this idea interests you!).
I like the optimism in Charles Kenny’s Foreign Policy piece,“What Resource Curse?”. A couple of nice quotes:

  • “The curse is the type of counterintuitive idea that makes for a great newspaper op-ed. Nonetheless, the curse is also the kind of counterintuitive idea where intuition may have been right to begin with.”
  • “Blaming oil wealth for poverty, though, is like blaming treasure for the existence of pirates.”

China and Africa: Some of the Latest

As many friends and colleagues know, one of my two core research agendas considers Africa’s changing relationships with rising powers in the world, and in particular China.

Here are some of the latest (well, I was on vacation a couple weeks so some of this may not seem very recent to all of you!) items I’ve found:

Secretary Clinton’s trip to the continent has included a number of important statements about US policy towards Africa and its interpretation of China’s role on the continent.

Meanwhile, Antoaneta Becker’s IPS story (June 7, “North Africa: China Begins to Look Away from Africa”,via suggests that recent political uprisings in North Africa could change China’s perceptions of doing business in the continent. If that is the case, then I must wonder: does China have the same “Africa is a country” problem that so many people seem to have here in the US?

Sean Jacobs at “Africa is a Country” mentions a new documentary,“When China Met Africa”. The trailer seems interesting, though this is a subject that is a bit easy to sensationalize.

I like the anecdote in Giles Mohan’s piece (in the African Arguments blog) of an Angolan official who is asked about China’s role there: “[he] looked at us incredulously asking why we were so obsessed with the Chinese. He said they were only one amongst a range of new investors, and his country was open for business to all of them.” Indeed, while China has emerged as Angola’s key trading partner, any account of Angola’s external trade and investment would have to include consideration of other rising economies, including Brazil.

Deborah Brautigam does her usual service to our understanding of China-Africa relations by providing some correctives to an April story in The Economist.